Matthew Most Thesis Defense: Project Description
Title: Activity Patterns and Spatial Resource Selection of the Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis)
Snake species usually exhibit seasonal variations in activity patterns, home-range size and the use of respective habitat. Using mark-recapture protocols I marked 96 individual Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalisspecimens in Lake Forest, IL to determine the independent variables that best explained habitat selection in a population of Eastern Garter Snakes (T. s. sirtalis). To calculate the movement and activity patterns for both male and female T. s. sirtalis ArcView (Version 10.0, ESRI, Redlands, CA) was used to create shapefiles for gender and season. Specifically, I focused on the relationship between seasonal movement and activity patterns (measured as home-range size) of male and female garter snakes.
I analyzed the habitat preferences and spatial ecology of Eastern Garter Snakes during the 2011 sampling season and modeled the relationship between preferred or avoided habitat, in conjunction with snake gender and season. Males were calculated to have a higher movement than females in the spring, 58.19 ± 14.13 m (F=1.354, df=1,25, P=0.256), and summer, 46.22 ± 46.216 (F=2.358, df=1,4, P=0.199). Females typically had a larger home range c= 122,039.976 ± 12,056.185 m2 than males c= 94,915.708 ± 1,084.237 m2 (F=5.021, df=1,2, P=0.154).
The presence/absence of male and female T. s. sirtalis for the 2011-sampled population was best explained by the spatial predictors factors, which for the male and female sampled population was the location of nearest crayfish burrow < 89.96 (m) resulting in a two-leaf tree (R2=95.098%). These findings, and those of previous investigations on the activity patterns of snake species, suggest that there is a difference between gender movement and activity patterns specific to season.
This research was funded by the Max Schewitz Foundation (2011-2012) in support of a herptofauna survey, which allowed for the collection of Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis data. I give special thanks to David Treering, CUERP’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialist for his assistance in the creation of maps to be utilized in the analysis of the Garter Snakes’ data. David’s geographical and technological expertise has allowed for this project to be fully developed and has provided for the analysis of distribution and activity patterns of this species.
I also give thanks to the Wildlife Discovery Center and the Lake Forest Open Lands Association for their support and generosity during the development and implementation of this project, as well as providing one of the most luxurious field sites known to field ecologists. Throughout my time at the Wildlife Discovery Center, I was able to interact with peers and visitors of the Chicago-land area and share my passion of reptiles and amphibians and would like to thank the staff for their collaboration and assistance in data collection. I also thank Claire Snyder, Whitman College, for her tireless and devoted field assistance to the Lake Forest Open Lands Association Herptofauna Survey, as well as the research dedicated towards the Garter Snakes. A special thank you goes to Lauren M. Grande, Loyola University of Chicago, for her devotion and eager spirit towards learning all aspects of Herpetology feasible and being an inspiration for my aspiration of teaching at the collegiate level.
Also, I am extremely grateful of having a supportive family in assisting withdreams of Herpetology. From a young age, my mother always provided me with the means of exploring all of my passions, which included keeping reptiles and amphibians. This undoubtedly fueled my interests that have encompassed captive propagation to my current interests of research with native reptiles and amphibians’ ecology. I also am extremely grateful to have a mentorship unlike any other feasible, that being of my Aunt Linda, who has provided me with the support and advice to achieve all of my wildest dreams. However, I cannot go without thanking a brother unlike any other, Mike, who has provided continued support in my research, life decisions and has further dedicated time into the field and captured one of the largest Garter Snake females found during the sampling period.
Special thanks to Terry Grande, Ph.D. Graduate Program Director for the Master of Science Program at Loyola University of Chicago. Terry has never ceased to amaze me with her patience and commitment to higher education within her laboratory. Throughout my education, both undergraduate and graduate, she has sought to provide mentorship to all of her student by pairing students with undergraduates to further enhance the education and skill sets of all of her students. While having a difficult time seeking a mentor in Herpetology she sought out and directed me to Robert Carmichael, M.S., curator of the Wildlife Discovery Center in Lake Forest, IL who further assisted in providing me with the necessary background in achieving my wildest dreams of becoming the “Herpetologist” that I am today. I would also like to thank my Advisory Committee, Drs. Martin Berg and Timothy Hoellein and Robert Carmichael for their guidance and assistance during the course of this research.
Finally, I would also thank the owners of the Chicago Reptile House, Jeff Lodico and Brian Potter, and Drs. William “Cal” Borden and Sapna Sharma for their encouragement and guidance both in and outside of my direct research.
Matthew G. Most graduated from Loyola University Chicago in 2004 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with an Ecology emphasis. Following a long-term passion for reptiles and amphibians since childhood, Matthew decided to pursue a Master of Science degree in Biology at Loyola University Chicago, focusing on spatial ecology. He is currently working as a Teaching Assistant at the University of Massachusetts Lowell where he is a Doctor of Philosophy candidate.
Dr. Terry Grande
Dr. Martin Berg
Dr. Timothy Hoellein
Robert Carmichael, M.S.